screen gems

Four must-see films that explain the effect the Russian incursion has on LGBTQ people in Ukraine

Welcome to Chechnya

With the Russian invasion of Ukraine making headlines around the world, we here at Queerty want to highlight one aspect of the attack not getting enough traction elsewhere in the media: the effect of the Russian incursion on the LGBTQ community of Ukraine.

Related: That time Ukraine won Eurovision with a song decrying cultural genocide by a murderous dictator

As many readers of this site will note, the Putin regime instituted oppressive policies against queer people in Russia several years ago. LGBTQ people can lose their jobs, homes, or even disappear into the night as victims of torture, government raids, or mob violence.

Related: Ukrainian LGBTQ activists captured a group of Russian soldiers hiding in a basement

For more insight into this growing humanitarian crisis, we’ve compiled a list of four films that explore the history, motives, and consequences of anti-LGBTQ bigotry in Russia, and help put the threat to the community in real-world terms.

Welcome to Chechnya

David France directed this documentary detailing the network of underground safe houses organized to help LGBTQ people escape the Russian state of Chechnya known as the “Rainbow Railroad”. France and his subjects all risked their lives to make the film, and it shows. Welcome to Chechnya plays like a taut spy thriller with white-knuckle suspense.

Streams on HBO Max.

Operation Hyacinth

This Netflix film doesn’t deal with the current situation in Eastern Europe, though it does go into the long history of Russian oppression of queer people. Set in the 1980s, Operation Hyacinth deals with Soviet-era mandates to identify, intimidate and purge LGBTQ people–specifically gay men–from Polish society. While investigating a string of rentboy murders, one detective begins to make a few realizations about his own sexuality.

Streams on Netflix.

A Worm in the Heart

This true indie documentary doesn’t get enough credit for its insight into Russia’s queer population, or the risk its filmmakers took in making it. Director Paul Rice filmed a three-week trip across Russia with his boyfriend Liam investigating the queer scene there, interviewing Russians about their experiences with their friends, family, and the government in coming out. Rice also draws a line between Putin’s attacks on LGBTQ Russians and the actions of a certain American President who seems to have inspired him.

Continues to play film festivals worldwide.

And Then We Danced

This Sundance selection deals less with government oppression than with the engrained oppressive attitudes in Russia and its neighbor states. The movie follows Merab, a traditional Georgian dancer who falls hard for a fellow dancer named Irakli. Upon release, the film met with mass protests across the country. It also helped start a national dialogue about the place of LGBTQ people, and helped bring the community in Georgia together.

Streams on Amazon, VUDU & YouTube.

Related: Here’s where you can donate to help LGBTQ people in Ukraine